Fantastic book. I can't wait to read the second in the series. So many books in this genre have an unsatisfying ending -- this ending was credible, was well-integrated with the rest of the book, was consistent with the background of the characters, left a few of the main characters poised for another story, and thus was very satisfying.
There was a point about midway where I thought maybe the book dragged so I put it aside for a few days. When I went back to it I had to read almost nonstop -- it just wouldn't let me go. And so many of those little details that might have seemed pointless when I read them were building up like tiny twigs for the "bonfire" of the conclusion.
Perhaps my favorite murder mystery of all time, a police-procedural with engaging, fully-realized characters, and a back-story laid out in a second plot line narrated by Jane Doe, who went to Africa to study their cultures and came back an apprentice witch. Gruber manages to suggest a scientific biochemistry/physiology explanation for the witch-work, so that it does not read as fantasy, but even as you emerge blinking from the world of this novel wishing it could go on for a thousand pages more, you are glad it isn't really true. Brilliantly imagined, beautifully written, a superb work of fiction.
From Publishers Weekly: "Gruber's intricate thriller ignites in the very first chapter as anthropologist heroine Jane Doe employs the theories of Claude Levi-Strauss, quotes W. H. Auden, kills a drunken woman using advanced aikido techniques and rescues an abused child whom she raises as her own. The story moves seamlessly between Miami, Long Island and West Africa. Jane Doe's husband, DeWitt Moore, an African-American poet and playwright, accompanies Jane to Nigeria, where she visits the Olo, a tribe of spiritual practitioners. There he falls under the influence of a malevolent witch and becomes a sorcerer. Fearing that her husband will try to kill her, Jane fakes suicide and flees to Miami. Moore, intent on wreaking vengeance on white America, follows and begins murdering pregnant women and stealing their unborn babies for use in a rite that will give him unstoppable powers. Investigating the murders is Cuban exile Iago "Jimmy" Paz and his Bible-spouting partner, Cletis Barlow. As Moore terrorizes Miami, Jane bows to the inevitable, comes out of hiding and gathers a tiny band of courageous accomplices to battle her ex-husband and his shuffling band of the undead. First-time novelist Gruber keeps his far-flung locations, complicated characters and anthropological information perfectly balanced in this finely crafted, intelligent and original work. While readying herself for battle, Jane's commentary on cleaning her rare Mauser pistol could read equally well as a description of Gruber's meticulous plotting: "Each part pops free with a precisely directed pressure and snaps in with a satisfying click, just where it belongs." How readers categorize this book will depend on their acceptance or rejection of Gruber's underlying thesis: "The point is, there's no supernatural. It's all part of the universe, although the universe is queerer than we suppose." Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Michael Gruber's "Tropic Of Night" is an imaginative, supernatural thriller which ultimately combines the paralleling experiences of its two main characters.
Jane Doe an aspiring anthropologist hailing from an affluent family on the North Shore of Long Island is presently living a meagre existence hiding under an assumed name in Miami. She was led to this by her professional associations which saw her travel into the steppes of Siberia. With an eminent colleague she spent years studying among the mysterious Chenka tribe purveyors of a powerful form of sorcery.
Years later, now an expert on sorcery and shamanism and married to Dewitt Moore an African American poet, Doe and her husband travel to Mali to study the customs of witchcraft under the Olo tribe. While there Moore falls under the influence of an evil and powerful shaman and becomes one himself. Doe fearing for her life flees and fakes her own death keeping underground.
Meanwhile back in Miami Cuban American detective Jimmy Paz gets called in to investigate a ritualistic murder where a pregnant woman had been murdered along with her fetus which had been surgically removed from her uterus. Appparently certain body parts had been consumed in which turned out to be a ritual design to bestow upon the murderer untold evil powers of sorcery. The mothered Paz whose mom secretly was a priestess in the practice of Santeria gets drawn into a fantastic and implausibe plot of supernatural powers. He eventually partners with Jane Doe in an attempt to thwart the serial murderer who by that time had committed two additional murders with the same m.o.
Gruber in his intial novel pushes the envelope of believability in his novel. Some sections chronicling Jane Doe African experiences tend to bog down but the book is nonetheless a compelling read.
I thought this book was terrible so I stopped reading it and tossed it in the trash. It was so bad that I couldn't see inflicting it on anyone else. But maybe it was just me...I'd give it no stars if that was an option.
Didn't know what to expect and got the unexpected. This book takes the mysteries of the occult and places them in a world that doesn't accept anything but cold hard fact. I can't wait to read the sequel.
With the sections of the book in italics, and the constant use of foreign terms, etc., it was not an easy book to read. Certainly made you work hard to follow things. And it tries to make a believer out of you. But I did like the main character (Jimmy Paz) and I read all 3 books in the series. So it couldn't have been that bad. ;)
Jane Doe was a promising anthropologist, an expert on shamanism. Now she's nothing, a shadow living under an assumed identity in Miami with a little girl to protect. Everyone thinks she's dead. Or so Jane hopes. Then the killings start, a series of rutualistic murders that terrifies all of Miami. The investigator is Jimmy Paz, a Cuban-American police detective. There are witnesses, but they can recall almost nothing of the events, as though their memory has been reased - as if a spell has been cast on them. Equally bizarre is the string of clues Paz uncovers; a divination charm, exotic drugs found in the bodies of the victims, a century-old report telling of a secret place in the heart of Africa.
Pretty darn good thriller. Not edge of the seat stay up till all hours and finish, but layered and twisted with a dose of confession and redemption. Oh did I mention anthropology and magical religions? Read this and learn. A better read than the The Book of Air and Shadows